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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 3 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki  in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the new one, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb).  For earlier days scroll down main page for this blog.

August 3, 1945

--On Tinian, Little Boy is ready to go, awaiting word on weather, with General LeMay to make the call. Taking off the night of August 5 appears most likely scenario.

--On board the ship Augusta steaming home for USA after Potsdam meeting, President Truman, Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Leahy, and Secretary of State James F. Byrnes--a strong A-bomb booster--enjoy some poker.   Byrnes aide Walter Brown notes in his diary that "President, Leahy, JFB [Byrnes) agreed Japan looking for peace. (Leahy had another report from Pacific.) President afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden."

--Leahy had questioned the decision to use the bomb, later writing: "[T]he use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.... [I]n being the first to use it, we...adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

 --Our "Magic" intercepts show Japan monitoring the Soviets' military buildup in the Far East (prelude to the declaration of war in four days).  Also, Japanese still searching for way to approach Molotov to pursue possible surrender terms before that happens. Another Magic intercept carried the heading, "Japanese Army's interest in peace negotiations." War Department intel analysts revealed "the first statement to appear in the traffic that the Japanese Army is interested in the effort to end the war with Soviet assistance." A segment of Prime Minister Togo's message declared: "The Premier and the leaders of the Army are now concentrating all their attention on this one point."

--John McCloy, then assistant secretary of war and a well-known "hawk" in his later career, would later reflect, "I have always felt that if, in our ultimatum to the Japanese government issued from Potsdam [in July 1945], we had referred to the retention of the emperor as a constitutional monarch and had made some reference to the reasonable accessibility of raw materials to the future Japanese government, it would have been accepted. Indeed, I believe that even in the form it was delivered, there was some disposition on the part of the Japanese to give it favorable consideration. When the war was over I arrived at this conclusion after talking with a number of Japanese officials who had been closely associated with the decision of the then Japanese government, to reject the ultimatum, as it was presented. I believe we missed the opportunity of effecting a Japanese surrender, completely satisfactory to us, without the necessity of dropping the bombs."

 --Soviet General Vasilevskii reports to Stalin that Soviet forces ready for invasion from August 7 on.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 4 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki  in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the new one, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb).  For earlier days scroll down main page for this blog.

August 2, 1945

—Early today, Paul Tibbets, pilot of the lead plane, the Enola Gay (named after his mom) on the first mission, reported to Gen. Curtis LeMay’s Air Force headquartters on Guam. LeMay told him the “primary” was still Hiroshima. Bombardier Thomas Ferebee pointed on a map what the aiming point for the bomb would be—a distinctive T-shaped bride in the center of the city, not the local army base. “It’s the most perfect aiming I’ve seen in the whole damned war,” Tibbets said. But the main idea was to set the bomb off over the center of the city, which rests in kind of a bowl, so that the surrounding hills would supply a “focusing effect” that would lead to added destruction and loss of life in city mainly filled by women and children.

—By 3 p.m., top secret orders were being circulated for Special Bombing Mission #13, now set for August 6, when the weather would clear. The first alternate to Hiroshima was Kokura. The second, Nagasaki. The order called for only “visual bombing,” not radar, so the weather had to be okay. Six planes would take part. Two would escort the Enola Gay, one would take photos, the other would be a kind of mobile lab, dropping canisters to send back scientific information.

—Meanwhile, three B-29s arrived at Tinian carrying from Los Alamos the bomb assemblies for the second Fat Man device (which would use plutonium, the substance of choice for the future, unlike the uranium bomb meant for Hiroshima). 

 —Japanese cables and other message intercepted by the United States showed that they were still trying to enlist the Soviets' help in presenting surrender terms--they would even send an envoy--but were undecided on just what to propose. The Russians, meanwhile, were just five days from declaring war on Japan.

--Top U.S. officials were on now centering on allowing the Japanese to keep their emperor when they give up.  In his diary Secretary of War Stimson endorses a key report which concludes: "The retention of the Emperor will probably insure the immediate surrender of all Japanese Forces outside the home islands."  Would offering that win a swift Japanese surrender--without the need to use the bomb?  Not considered.

—Six years ago earlier on this day, August 2, 1939, Albert Einstein sent a letter to President Roosevelt stating the Germans were trying to enrich uranium 235—and that this process would allow them to build an atomic bomb. This helped spark FDR’s decision to create the Manhattan Project. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima, X-Minus 5 Days



Every year at this time I trace the final days leading to the first use of the atomic bomb against two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, tragic decisions made by President Truman, his advisers, and others, can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As some know, this is a subject that I have explored in hundreds of articles, thousands of posts,  and in three books, since 1984:  Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton), Atomic Cover-up and last year's Hollywood epic, The Beginning or the End.   Now I've directed an award-winning documentary

On this date:

—Truman wrote a letter to his wife Bess last night talking about the atomic bomb (but without revealing it): “He [Stalin] doesn’t know it but I have an ace in the hole and another one showing—so unless he has threes or two pair (and I know he has not) we are sitting all right.”

And today he gives a letter to Stalin, which confounds the Soviet leader. Earlier, Stalin had promised to declare war on Japan around August 10. Now Truman writes that more consultation is needed. Truman had earlier pushed for the quick entry, writing in his diary "fini Japs" when that occurred, even without use of The Bomb. Now that he has the bomb in his "pocket" he apparently hopes to stall the Soviets.

 --Truman has also approved statement on the use of the bomb, brought to him last night in Germany by a courier, drafted by Secretary of War Stimson and others, and ordered it released after the bomb drop. A line near the start has been added explicitly depicting the vast city of Hiroshima (occupied mainly by women and children) as nothing but a “military base.” The president, and the drafters of the statement, knew was false. An earlier draft described the city of Nagasaki as a “naval base” and nothing more. There would be no reference to radiation effects whatsoever in the statement—it was just a vastly bigger bomb.

—The Potsdam conference ended early this morning, with Truman expected to head back to the US by sea tomorrow.

—The “Little Boy” atomic bomb is now ready for use on the island of Tinian. Under the direction of the lead pilot, Paul Tibbetts, practice runs have been completed, near Iwo Jima, and fake payloads dropped, with success. Truman’s order had given the okay for the first mission later this day and it might have happened if a typhoon was not approaching Japan.

—Stimson writes in his diary about decision today to release to the press, with Truman’s coming statement after  the use of the bomb, a 200-page report on the building of the bomb, revised to not give too much away. Here he explains why they will release it at all: “The aim of the paper is to backfire reckless statements by independent scientists after the demonstration of the bomb. If we could be sure that these could be controlled and avoided, all of us would much prefer not to issue such a paper. But under the circumstances of the entire independence of action of scientists and the certainty that there would be a tremendous amount of excitement and reckless statement, [Gen. Leslie] Groves, who is a very conservative man, had reached the conclusion that the lesser evil would be for us to make a statement carefully prepared so as not to give away anything vital and thus try to take the stage away from the others.”

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 6 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki  in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the new one, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) and now this year in an award-winning film, Atomic Cover-up.  For earlier days scroll down main page for this blog.

July 31, 1945:

--In Germany, Admiral William D. Leahy, chief of staff to Truman--and the highest-ranking U.S. military officer during the war--continues to privately express doubts about the bomb, that it may not work and is not needed,  in any case. (Gen. Eisenhower had just come out against using the Bomb.)  Leahy would later write in his memoirs: 

"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

"The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."

--The assembly of Little Boy is completed. It is ready for use the next day.  But a  typhoon approaching Japan will likely prevent launching an attack. Several days might be  required for weather to clear.

--Secretary of War Stimson sends semi-final draft of statement for Truman to read when first bomb used and he has to explain its use, and the entire bomb project, to the U.S. and the world, with this cover note: "Attached are two copies of the revised statement which has been prepared for release by you as soon as the new weapon is used. This is the statement about which I cabled you last night.  The reason for the haste is that I was informed only yesterday that, weather permitting, it is likely that the weapon will be used as early as August 1st, Pacific Ocean Time, which as you know is a good many hours ahead of Washington time."  The statement would later be amended to include the name of the first city destroyed and add that it was not a city but a "military base."
It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 7 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki  in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the new one, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb).  For earlier days scroll down main page for this blog.

July 30, 1945

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of U.S. troops in Europe, has visited President Truman in Germany, and would recall what happened in his memoir (Mandate for Change): "Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act...

"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude..."

In a Newsweek interview, Ike would add: "...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."

-- Stimson, now back at the Pentagon, cabled Truman, that he had drafted a statement for the president that would follow the first use of the new weapon--and Truman must urgently review it because the bomb could be used as early as August 1. Stimson sent one of his aides to Germany with two copies of the statement. The top secret, six-page typed statement opened: "____ hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on ______ and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb has more power than 20,000 tons of TNT.... It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe." Later, as we will see, the claim that Hiroshima was merely "a military base" was added to the draft.

--After scientists sifted more data from the July 16 Trinity test of the first weapon, Gen. Leslie R. Groves, military head of the Manhattan Project provided Gen. George Marshall, our top commander, with more detail on the destructive power of atomic weapons. Amazingly, despite the new evidence, Groves recommended that troops could move into the "immediate explosion area" within a half hour (and, indeed, in future bomb tests soldiers would march under the mushroom clouds and receive harmful doses of radiation). Groves also provided the schedule for the delivery of the weapons: By the end of November more than ten weapons would be available, in the event the war had continued.

--Groves faced a new problem, however. Gen. "Tooey" Spaatz on Guam urgently cabled that sources suggested that there was an Allied prisoner of war camp in Nagasaki just a mile north of the center of the city. Should it remain on the target list?" Groves, who had already dropped Kyoto from the list after Stimson had protested, refused to shift. In another cable Spaatz revealed that there were no POW camps in Hiroshima, or so they believed. This firmed up Groves's position that Hiroshima should "be given top priority," weather permitting. As it turned out, POWs died in both cities from the bombing.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 8 Days


Every year at this time I trace the final days leading to the first use of the atomic bomb against two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, tragic decisions made by President Truman, his advisers, and others, can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As some know, this is a subject that I have explored in hundreds of articles, thousands of posts,  and in three books, since 1984:  Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton), Atomic Cover-up and last year's Hollywood epic, The Beginning or the End.   Now I've directed an award-winning documentary

On July 29, 1945: 

—Truman wrote letter to wife Bess from Potsdam on dealings there (but does not mention A-bomb discussions with Soviets): “I like Stalin. He is straightforward, knows what he wants and will compromise when he can’t get it. His Foreign Minister isn’t so forthright.“ Truman casually informed Stalin about the atomic bomb but no one is quite certain that the latter understood.

—Japanese sub sinks the U.S.S. Indianapolis, killing over 800 American seamen. If it had happened three days earlier, the atomic bomb the ship was carrying to Tinian would have never made it.

—A Newsweek story observes: “As Allied air and sea attacks hammered the stricken homeland, Japan’s leaders assessed the war situation and found it bordering on the disastrous…. As usual, the nation’s propaganda media spewed out brave double-talk of hope and defiance.” But it adds: “Behind the curtain, Japan had put forward at least one definite offer. Fearing the results of Russian participation in the war, Tokyo transmitted to Generalissimo Stalin the broad terms on which it professed willingness to settle all scores.”

—Assembling of the first atomic bomb continued at Tinian. It would likely be ready on August 1 and the first use would be dictated by the weather.  The second bomb—the plutonium device—was still back in the States. The target list, with Hiroshima as #1, remained in place, although it was being studied for the presence of POW camps holding Americans in the target cities.

—Secretary of War Stimson began work on the statement on the first use of the bomb that President Truman would record or release in a few days, claiming we merely hit a "military base," assuming the bomb worked.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 9 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, very tragic, decisions made by President Truman and his advisers can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As many know, this is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the recent Atomic Cover-Up on the U.S. suppression of film for decades)  since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media reactions in the decades after.

July 28, 1945

--Two days after receiving it, the Japanese leadership  rejected the Potsdam declaration calling for their "unconditional" surrender, or seemed to. The official word was that it would ignore the demand mokusatsu, or "with silence." Another translation, however, is "to withhold comment." This not-quite-rejection has led some historians to suggest that the U.S. should have pursued the confusing Japanese peace feelers already circulating, especially with suggestions that unconditional terms were the main, or perhaps only, obstacles.

--Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal had breakfast with Truman at Potsdam.  He had flown there at least partly to press the president to pursue Japanese peace feelers--especially concerning letting them keep their emperor--before using the bomb and killing countless civilians.

 --Returning to Washington from Potsdam, Secretary of War Henry Stimson consulted with the top people at Los Alamos about the bomb (or "S-1" as it was then known) and wrote in his diary. "Everything seems to be going well."

 --U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Joseph Davies wrote in his diary that Secretary of State James Byrnes was overly excited by the success of the bomb test vis-a-vis future relations with our allies, the Soviets: "Byrnes' attitude that the atomic bomb assured ultimate success in negotiations disturbed me more than his description of its success amazed me. I told him the threat wouldn't work, and might do irreparable harm." Four days earlier, Byrnes aide Walter Brown had written in his diary that Byrnes' view was that "after atomic bomb Japan will surrender and Russia will not get in so much on the kill." The Soviets were scheduled to enter the war on August 7 (which likely would have prompted a Japanese surrender, even without use of the Bomb), so there was some urgency.

--A U.S. bombing raid on the small Japanese city of Aomori -- which had little military significance beyond being a transportation hub -- dropped 83,000 incendiaries and destroyed almost the entire city, killing at least 2,000 civilians.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 10 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki  in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the new one, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  For earlier days scroll down main page for this blog.

July 27, 1945

Truman continued to meet with Allied leaders in Germany, as the Soviets got ready to declare war on Japan around August 8 ("fini Japs" when that happened, even without the bomb, Truman had written in his diary this week).

 "A Petition to the President of the United States" organized by famed nuclear scientist Leo Szilard, and signed by dozens of his Manhattan Project colleagues -- the only real pre-Hiroshima protests by insiders -- urgently urging delay or extreme caution on the use of the new weapon against Japan, continued to be held in limbo and kept from the President's eyes while Truman remained abroad.

Preparations at Tinian in the Pacific to get the first A-bomb ready for use, possibly within a week (weather permitting) were finalized, with the city of Hiroshima remaining as #1 target. It has been barely touched by Allied bombing so it would serve as the best site to judge the bomb's experimental effects.  Also it is nearly surrounded by hills, promising a "focusing effect" (as the target committee boasted) that will likely guarantee killing tens of thousands.  Kokura was target #2 and Nagasaki #3, with the bomb on an assembly line process with no need for  a separate order for the second and third bombs, which would doom, in the end, Nagasaki. 

The Japanese government today released an edited version of the "unconditional surrender" Potsdam declaration (which did not mention the atomic bomb) to their press and citizens, but had not yet rejected it. The Domei news agency had already predicted that the surrender demand "would be ignored." The U.S, after use of bomb, would later accept conditional surrender -- with Japan allowed to keep its emperor -- yet call it unconditional.

Eleven days after the first, and quite secret, atomic test at Trinity, which spread wide clouds of radioactive fallout over residents downwind -- livestock had been sickened or killed -- radiation experts had become concerned about the exposure for one family, the shape of things to come.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 11 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki  in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the new one, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) and now a new film (Atomic Cover-up) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

July 26, 1945:

Early on July 26, Chief of Staff Gen.George Marshall cabled to Gen. Leslie Groves, military chief of the Manhattan Project back in Washington, DC, his approval of a directive sent by Groves the night before. It read: “1. The 509th Composite Group, Twentieth Air Force, will deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nigata and Nagasaki…. 2. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above targets as soon as made ready by the project staff…..”

This assembly-line approach would have tragic consequences for the city of Nagasaki. (Kyoto had been removed from the target list after the Secretary of War Henry Stimson pleaded that destroying this historic and beautiful city would really turn the Japanese against us in the postwar period.)

In a 1946 letter to Stimson, Truman reminded him that he had ordered the bombs used against cities engaged “exclusively” in war work. Truman would later write in his memoirs, “With this order the the wheels were set in motion for the first use of an atomic weapon against a military target.” Even years after the decision, and all the evidence (largely kept from the American people) that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only partly “military” targets, Truman still acted otherwise.

--The other major event from this day was equally significant. The Potsdam Declaration was issued in Germany by the United States, Britain and China. (The Soviet Union was still ostensibly not at war with Japan but agreed to enter the conflict around August 8. This has led some to suggest that we used the bombs quickly to try to end the war before the Russians could claim much new territory.) It was Truman’s first key wartime conference with other top leaders.

The declaration ordered Japan to surrender immediately and unconditionally or face a reign of ruin—“prompt and utter destruction”—although the new weapon was not mentioned (such a warning had been considered by Truman but rejected). Much was made of the importance of the “unconditional” aspect but three weeks later, after the use of the new bombs, we accepted a major condition, allowing the Japanese to keep their emperor--and still called the surrender “unconditional.”

Some historians believe that if we had agreed to that condition earlier Japan might have started the surrender process before the use of the atomic bombs. Others believe an explicit warning to the Japanese, or a demonstration of the new weapon offshore in Japan, would have speeded the surrender process. But the Potsdam Declaration set US policy in stone.


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 12 Days



Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki  in August 1945. This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including the new one, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

Yesterday's entry.  Today:

July 25:  Still at Potsdam, Truman wrote in his diary this day an entry that raises the following:  Did he know that the U.S. was targeting the center of cities--the vast majority of citizens then living in the target cities were women and children--or was he lying to himself and history?   "We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.  Anyway we ‘think’ we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom. An experiment in the New Mexico desert was startling - to put it mildly. ...The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.

"This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.

"He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I’m sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler’s crowd or Stalin’s did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful."   

Note:  "Military" made up only about 10% of the casualties in Hiroshima (including several American POWs), and 1% at most in Nagasaki (including Dutch POWs.). The vast majority of the 200,000  killed were women and children.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 13 Days


Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.    This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.   See my new book, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Yesterday's entry.  Today:

July 24:   Truman at Potsdam discloses the existence of the atomic bomb to Stalin (who had possibly already been informed about it by his spies).  In his memoirs, a decade later, Truman would describe it briefly this way:  "On July 24 I casually mentioned to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was he was glad to hear it and hoped we would make 'good use of it against the Japanese.'"

American officials present would assert that Stalin failed to grasp the import of the new weapon in future world affairs.  But a Soviet official with the Stalin party later claimed that Stalin immediately ordered his scientists to speed up work on their own weapon.  See views of Churchill and others who witnessed the telling.

Gen. Groves drafts the directive authorizing the use of the atomic bombs as soon as bomb availability and weather permit. It lists the following targets in order of priority: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki.  They are all large cities and orders are to drop bombs over center of them, thereby dooming tens of thousands of civilians for death. This directive constitutes final authorization for atomic attack--no further orders are issued. 

Indeed, there would never be a separate order, even by Truman, to use the second bomb against Japan--it just rolled off, as if from an atomic assembly line. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 14 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.  This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  
Yesterday's entry.  See my new book, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

For today: 

July 23, 1945:  More decoded cables and reports suggest Japanese might very well surrender soon if "unconditional surrender" demand is amended to allow them to retain their Emperor as symbolic leader.  Some top Truman advisers, including Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson have floated this idea to no avail.   U.S. will rule that out in its upcoming Potsdam Declaration--but then allow it, after using the bomb. If granted earlier would that have meant quick surrender and no use of A-bomb?

Truman had come to Potsdam mainly to get the Russians to keep their promise of entering war against Japan in early August--and Truman believed, as he wrote in his diary, that alone would mean "fini Japs" even without using the bomb.  But, after the successful Trinity, Stimson writes in diary today, that he and Gen. George Marshall believe "now with our new weapon we would not need the assistance of the Russians to conquer Japan."  So he again presses for info on earliest possible date for use of bomb. 

So the bomb would be useful--even if not, perhaps, necessary.

Out in the Pacific, the first bomb unit, without explosives, dropped in a test at Tinian.

Meanwhile, 600 bombers get ready to bomb the hell out of Osaka and Nagoya without conventional weapons.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 15 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.   This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books (including Atomic Cover-up  and Hollywood Bomb) since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  

Yesterday's lengthy entry, including Gen. Eisenhower opposing using the bomb against Japan.   Today:

July 22, 1945:  Still at Potsdam, Secretary of War Stimson meets with Prime Minister Churchill, who says that he was baffled by President Truman's sudden change in getting tough, almost bullying, with Stalin--but after he learned of successful first A-bomb test at Trinity he understood and endorsed it.   

Everyone also cheered by "accelerated" timetable for use of the bomb against cities--with first weapon ready about August 6.  Stimson in diary notes that two top officials endorse his striking off the city of  Kyoto (which he had visited and loved) from the target list because of its cultural importance.

The U.S. learns through its "Magic" intercepts that Japan is sending a special emissary to the Soviet Union to try to get them to broker a peace with the U.S. as soon as possible (the Japanese don't know the Russians are getting ready to declare war on them in two weeks).  Of course, as we noted earlier, Truman--who wrote in his diary it meant "Fini Japs" when the Soviets entered war--now hoped to use the bomb before then.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus 16 Days

Every year at this time, I trace the final days leading up to the first (and so far only) use of the atomic bomb against cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945.  This is a subject that I have studied and written about in hundreds of articles and three books. since the early 1980s with a special emphasis on the aftermath of the bombings, and the government and media suppression in the decades after.  See my latest book, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

July 21,  1945:  Gen. Leslie Groves' dramatic report on the Trinity test lands on Secretary of War Henry Stimson's desk.  Residents of New Mexico and Las Vegas, who witnessed a flash in the desert (some received radiation doses) are still in the dark.

The Interim Committee has settled on a target list (in order):  Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki.  Top priority was they must be among the few large Japanese cities not already devastated by bombardments--so the true effects of the new bomb can be observed.   That's also why the bomb will be dropped over the very center of the cities, which will also maximize civilian casualties.  Hiroshima has the added "benefit" or being surrounding by hills on three sides, providing a "focusing effect" which will bounce the blast back on the city, killing even more.  Kyoto, on the original target list, was dropped after an appeal by Stimson, who loved the historic and beautiful city. 

Stimson in his diary recounts visit with Truman at Potsdam after they've both read Gen. Groves account of the successful Trinity test.  He finds Truman tremendously "pepped up" by it with "new confidence."  This "Trinity power surge" (in Robert Lifton's phrase) helped push Truman to use the new weapon as soon as possible without further reflection,  with the Russians due to enter the war around August 7.  Truman has not yet told Stalin about existence of the bomb.

Note: Groves' lengthy memo generally pooh-poohed radiation effects on nearby populations but did include this:  "Radioactive material in small quantities was located as much as 120 miles away. The measurements are being continued in order to have adequate data with which to protect the Government's interests in case of future claims. For a few hours I was none too comfortable with the situation."

Bombing crews start practicing flights over targets in Japan.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Countdown to Hiroshima: X-Minus-17 Days

Every year at this time I trace the final days leading to the first use of the atomic bomb against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.   In this way the fateful, and in my view, tragic decisions made by President Truman, his advisers, and others, can be judged more clearly in "real time."  As some know, this is a subject that I have explored in hundreds of articles, thousands of posts,  and in three books, since 1984:  Hiroshima in America (with Robert Jay Lifton), Atomic Cover-up and last year's Hollywood epic, The Beginning or the End.   Now I've directed an award-winning documentary. 


What happened on today's date:

July 20,  1945:    Secretary of War Stimson met several top U.S. generals in Germany.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower would years later in Newsweek write:   "Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. …the Secretary, upon giving me the news of the successful bomb test in New Mexico, and of the plan for using it, asked for my reaction, apparently expecting a vigorous assent.

"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives.

"It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude."

There is conflicting evidence that Eisenhower also delivered this message to Truman.  Ike would later repeat in a memoir his opposition to dropping the bomb--"that awful thing"--on Japan.